(Update: Added video, comments from pastor, residents, speakers at board meeting)
REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Mountain View Fellowship Church in Redmond says its “safe parking” program to help the homeless has been successful for nearly a year and plans to expand. to new locations in the coming weeks. One site in particular drew large crowds at Tuesday night’s city council meeting, both in favor and in opposition.
The scheme, which NewsChannel 21 first reported on a year ago, along with support from the city council, provides safe places for people facing housing challenges to park and sleep in their vehicles.
It allows two to four people to live in their vehicle behind the church and provides them with case management. The goal is to help them find stable, long-term housing.
The program is also currently running in the VFW room in Redmond.
Pastor Rick Russell told NewsChannel 21 on Tuesday that they were looking to expand the program to other locations. He said there will be about 20 “safe parking” spaces available around the community by the end of September.
One of the locations will be at Northwest 19th Street and Pershall Way. This is about 30 acres of land that will continue to be a farm, as well as two groups of three vehicles each on site.
Russell said the church reached out to neighbors after word spread about the plans, sending a letter and setting up a meeting to let people know.
“The city asked what they could do to support the program, and so we asked for locations — more locations where we can operate the program,” Russell said.
“The homeless camps that exist around the community where it’s free for everyone. I think they’re worried about it showing up on their property,” Russell said. “That’s not what we operate on. We’re a very low-key, case-managed program. I understand their concerns. We don’t want this to be part of our community either, so that’s why we’ve set up This program.”
Some concerned residents have contacted NewsChannel 21 in recent days, expressing concern that neighbors or the general public have not been informed of the plans.
I spoke to residents of Redmond who asked that their faces not be shown, but wanted to voice their concerns.
A Redmond resident said, “We’re concerned that 19th Street goes right down to the (Dry) Canyon, and it’s a perfect parking lot for campers coming here.”
Norma Brenton said, “No, we weren’t happy at all with how the reunion went. They just kind of sugarcoated everything and let it go.”
Jenny Hurst said: “We’ve been left in the dark – the people it affects the most.”
Greg Crivellone said: “I was at the church meeting last week and spoke to quite a few residents of the area. They are very upset about this – they are very afraid of crime.”
Russell said they defer to owners of other properties on how to notify neighbors. Washroom facilities, services, a case manager and security cameras will be provided.
Several residents plan to voice their concerns at tonight’s city council meeting.
A large crowd showed up to speak in the visitors’ section of the Redmond City Council meeting on Tuesday night, as it was not on the agenda.
Several stakeholders involved in the program or related efforts to help the homeless have urged the council to continue supporting the program, which they say is safe and properly run.
But several others said they were upset they weren’t told and had only recently learned. They said the location chosen is a dark, isolated area, far from the services homeless people need. One of them listed several other places in the city that she thought would be more suitable, as they have water, sewer and electricity.
“You put them in a cow pasture,” one woman said. “Secrecy and disrespect look like blatant corruption.”